ANANTNAG: Rashid Khan was 20 when soldiers of the Indian Army killed his father along with four other civilians in a fake encounter in the forests of Pathribal in Brariangan area of Shangas. Seventeen years later, and after the army court letting the accused soldiers walk free, Rashid Khan is still hoping for punishment to the murderers.
“The murder of five innocent civilians, including my father, may be a closed chapter for the army and the governments, but I will continue to fight for justice,” Khan said.
On March 23, 2000, the army killed five Kashmiri civilians in Pathribal forests claiming that they were foreign militants responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora village three days ago. The army hurriedly buried the five civilians at separate places.
On April 3, seven more civilians were killed after the special operations group (SOG) of the police and the paramilitary CRPF opened fire on a crowd near Brakpora village of Anantnag that was demanding exhumation of the five bodies. After this episode, the state government ordered the exhumation of the bodies and medical reports identified the bodies as belonging to local civilians.
Investigation into the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI report concluded that the killings were cold-blooded murders for which four army officers were indicted. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India on the basis of the CBI report asked the army to decide whether the inducted officers should be tried in a civil criminal court or in an army court. The army chose the latter. On 23 January 2014, the Indian Army closed the case as evidence collected by it did not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused.
“The verdict of the army court was no surprise for me,” Rashid Khan told Reader. “One cannot expect justice from the killers themselves.”
Asked how he expects justice when the case has been closed, Rashid said, “When the innocent suffer, even the skies cry. The world knows how poor Gujjars were murdered in Pathribal to cover up the massacre of Sikhs in Chattisinghpora. I am hopeful that someone will hear our cries for justice some day.”
“India claims to be the largest democracy in the world. Even its premier investigating agency made it clear that our loved ones were murdered for promotions and money. But every regime of this democracy has failed us. We appeal to the international community to help deliver us justice,” Rashid said.
“My only weapon is the local press, through which I will continue to convey to people that we have not forgotten. Through the press I will continue to appeal to the international community and to human rights defenders to put pressure on India to reopen the case,” Rashid said.